Swinney, D. A., & Cutler, A.
(1979). The access and processing of idiomatic expressions. Journal of Verbal Learning an Verbal Behavior, 18, 523-534. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(79)90284-6.
Two experiments examined the nature of access, storage, and comprehension of idiomatic phrases. In both studies a Phrase Classification Task was utilized. In this, reaction times to determine whether or not word strings constituted acceptable English phrases were measured. Classification times were significantly faster to idiom than to matched control phrases. This effect held under conditions involving different categories of idioms, different transitional probabilities among words in the phrases, and different levels of awareness of the presence of idioms in the materials. The data support a Lexical Representation Hypothesis for the processing of idioms.